Today is kind of a lonely day. It is the beginning of the rainy season. The skies are a uniform grey. The temperature is just a little too warm. It’s wet, because of the constant misting that starts just after Golden Week.
It transports me, reminds me of the first time I lived here and saw those skies. Back in the early 90’s, before even e- mail existed, my brother and I would get on a train about once a month, to go out to the foreign books used book store.
Even if there was no downpour, my feet would get wet. Wet feet, socks that were soaked through, the ground always covered in puddles. The humidity refused to let anything evaporate. I’d wear a raincoat, because an umbrella didn’t make a difference in mist. Or because I was a stubborn foreigner who simple refused to pick up the habit of carrying one around. But the raincoat meant I was too hot.
Some wonderful expat had created this shop, knowing just how desperate a need there was. Going there was an event. A whole day. The trip out was an hour and a half. And if we were going to spend that much time there, we were going to get our time’s worth. We spent hours looking through the stacks of books. More expats than you expect are sci-fi fans like me. So they had a pretty good selection. I wish now that I had made note of where we went, the name of the bookstore, the train station where it was. Those memories are lost.
We’d usually combine it with a trip to the gaming store. Another place lost in history. There was a department store, someplace in the center of Tokyo that had a hobby store. And in it you could find the typical Japanese hobbies, shelves upon shelves of plastic models. Airplanes, navy ships, automobiles. Something I’ve never quite understood. Then again most people find my interests unfathomable as well.
In this store, there were ladders that led to scaffolding. Lining the walls at those heights were RPG’s, board games, and even some books. In English, which was amazing. There we bought Axis and Allies. which became our go-to game with friends on Sundays, the only day of the week when we all seemed to have the day off.
Some of us would read between turns. We couldn’t wait to start reading. Some would watch the TV. We’d talk about how Konishiki fully had the mass of three large humans. We’d eat karaage or curry- flavored hotdog burritos from the 7-11, maybe some o-den. We’d chug Asahi beer or Malts.
My brother had a collection of VHS tapes, mostly Star Trek, which our folks had taped from the TV. I don’t know how many times we watched and re-watched them, but there are some episodes I can recite from memory. Other days whenever there was a sumo tournament, we’d watch the regular TV. One of our friends, Dave, was a fan, so we’d flip it on and watch Mitoizumi toss a kilo of salt over his shoulder or see Konishiki roll over his opponents.
Instead, today, I sit in a Starbucks reading e- books, drinking coffee, and getting surprisingly teary-eyed remembering thirty years ago. Watching the same uniformly grey sky. Only it’s not sticky. The rain is falling, but the AC in the Starbucks is cool, and the coffee is good.